UW Graduate School

Memo 47: Graduate Programs and Credentials

This memo defines the relationship between a graduate degree program or graduate certificate program and the transcripted credentials associated with it.

The policy described in this memo applies only to new and significantly revised graduate programs. 

The Memo 47 Companion Document provides additional information on policy implementation, including review and approval roles of the Graduate School and the Graduate School Council.

Definitions

For the purposes of this memo, the following definitions apply:

Academic unit. The administrative entity such as a department, school, college, or interdisciplinary group that is ‘qualified’ (Executive Order No. VII) to offer a graduate degree program or graduate certificate program.

Graduate Degree Program. A set of defined activities and outcomes under the authority of the graduate faculty of an academic unit that results in completion of a graduate degree.[1] The graduate degree program title generally indicates the type of degree (Master of Arts; Master of Science; Doctor of Philosophy; etc.) plus a the general area of study (Classics; Chemistry; Immunology); or graduate degree program title may indicate a designated degree title only (Master of Business Administration; Master of Supply Chain Management; Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies; etc.). Upon creation, a graduate degree program is reviewed by the Graduate School Council and approved by the Board of Regents.

Graduate Certificate Program. A set of defined activities and outcomes delivered by the graduate faculty of an academic unit that results in completion of a graduate certificate.[2]The graduate certificate program title normally indicates the certificate title only (Graduate Certificate in Real Estate; Graduate Certificate in Textual and Digital Studies; etc.). Upon creation, a graduate certificate program is reviewed by the Graduate School Council and approved by the Board of Regents.

Graduate Program. Collective term that encompasses both graduate degree programs and graduate certificate programs.

Diploma Title. Upon completion of a graduate degree program, the degree title without the general area of study appears on the diploma (e.g., Master of Arts, Master of Science, Doctor of Philosophy, Master of Business Administration, Doctor of Nursing Practice). Graduate Certificates do not appear on the diploma.

Credential. The credential is the outcome of a specific program of study and is what is noted on the student transcript. The credential title will include indication of the overarching graduate program designation (e.g., Master of Arts (Classics); Master of Science (Chemistry); Master of Business Administration; Doctor of Philosophy (Immunology); Graduate Certificate in…), and may include an additional area of specialization. The program of study leading to each unique credential must be distinct, but it must also share substantial curricular components with all other credentials associated with the overarching graduate program as described below. The transcript may reflect an abbreviated credential title.

Program of Study. A program of study encompasses the academic requirements leading to a specific transcripted credential.

General

A graduate degree program or graduate certificate program as described above must have at least one, but may have multiple, transcripted credentials associated with it. Each unique credential must correspond to a program of study with distinct academic outcomes. The overarching graduate program title will be assigned to any curriculum or credential associated with that program. 

For example, a unit with multiple graduate programs and the associated credentials:

  • Academic Unit  [e.g., Foster School of Business]
    • Graduate Program A      [e.g., Doctor of Philosophy]
      •  Credential A1   [e.g., Doctor of Philosophy (Business Administration)]
  • Graduate Program B      [e.g., Master of Science in Information Systems] 
    • Credential B1   [e.g., Master of Science in Information Systems]
  • Graduate Program C     [e.g., Master of Business Administration]
    • Credential C1 [e.g., Master of Business Administration]
    • Credential C2 [e.g., Master of Business Administration (Information Systems)]
    • Credential C3 [e.g., Master of Business Administration (Environmental Management)]
  • Graduate program D    [e.g., Graduate Certificate in…]
    • Credential D1   [e.g., Graduate Certificate in…]
  • etc.

Common Elements: Minimum Similarity of Programs of Study Associated with a Graduate Program

All programs of study under an approved graduate degree program or graduate certificate program must share a set of common elements which define core components of the overarching graduate program. The graduate faculty of the academic unit authorized to offer the graduate program must define these common elements and how they relate program outcomes when creating or when significantly changing a graduate program or the program of study leading to a distinct credential under that program.[3]

Common Elements for a Graduate Certificate Program

For a graduate certificate program, the common elements included in each credential associated with the certificate must constitute a minimum of 9 course credits.[4]

Common Elements for a Master’s Degree Program

For a master’s degree program, the common elements included in each credential associated with the graduate degree program must constitute a minimum of 50% of the program of study, as evidenced by one or more of the following:

(a) shared course or credit requirements; 

(b) shared learning outcomes; 

(c) shared competencies. 

The common elements may be defined by any portion of the program of study with the exception of: 600 Independent Study or Research; 700 Master’s Thesis. The common elements need not contain the coursework used to fulfill the Graduate School minimum requirements (graded coursework; 500-level coursework; transfer credit; etc.). Likewise, transfer or other credit may be applied to any portion of the degree requirements, independent of their inclusion as part of the common elements, if otherwise deemed acceptable by the program and the Graduate School.

Common Elements for a Doctoral Degree Program

For a doctoral degree program, the common elements included in each credential associated with the graduate degree program must constitute at least 50% of the program of study, as evidenced by one or more of the following:

(a) shared course or credit requirements; 

(b) shared learning outcomes; 

(c) shared competencies. 

For doctoral programs with a dissertation, the dissertation must significantly overlap with the overall goals of the doctoral program as well as reflect the distinct academic focus of the specific credential. The common elements may be defined by any portion of the program of study with the exception of: 600 Independent Study or Research; 700 Master’s Thesis; 800 Doctoral Dissertation; 801 Practice Doctorate Project/Capstone. The common elements need not contain the coursework used to fulfill the Graduate School minimum requirements (graded coursework; 500-level coursework; transfer credit; etc.). Likewise, transfer or other credit may be applied to any portion of the degree requirements, independent of their inclusion as part of the common elements, if otherwise deemed acceptable by the program and the Graduate School.

Minimum Distinction of a Graduate Certificate Credential

A unique credential associated with a graduate certificate program must include a coherent curricular focus thatconstitutes a minimum of 6 credits. This curricular focus and the associated credits (1) must lead to a defined set of distinct learning outcomes or competencies; (2) must notbe part of the defined common elements for that graduate program; and (3) a minimum of 6 credits must not be a required component of the course of study leading to any other credential under that graduate program.

Minimum Distinction of a Graduate Degree Credential 

A unique credential associated with a graduate degree program must include a coherent curricular focus thatconstitutes a minimum of 9 credits, or the equivalent of 9 credits measured by learning outcomes or competencies.  This curricular focus and the associated credits (1) must lead to a defined set of distinct learning outcomes or competencies; (2) must notbe part of the defined common elements for that graduate program; and (3) a minimum of 9 of the credits that define the credential must not be a required component of the course of study leading to any other credential under that graduate program. 

Credit Requirements and Relationship between Credentials under a Single Graduate Program

Requirements for different credentials under a graduate program may lead to the same total credit requirements (e.g., if specific requirements for one credential replace elective requirements for another credential). Alternately, requirements for one credential may lead to a larger number of required credits than for another credential. 

Multiple Credentials under a Graduate Program

When multiple credentials exist under a graduate degree program, these may be structured by the graduate program to allow for completion and transcripting of multiple programs of study that are normally each associated with a single credential. In this case, the multiple areas of academic content will be reflected on the student transcript as part of a single graduate degree. This requires review and approval by the Graduate School at the graduate program level, such that multiple credentials will not be awarded to individual students unless the program has been previously approved to offer this.[5]

Issued: June 2019


[1]Guidelines for graduate degree requirements are outlined in Memo 46.

[2]Guidelines for graduate certificates are outlined in Memo 43.

[3]This applies only to new or significantly graduate programs and credentials as of June 2019.

[4]A graduate certificate program requires a minimum of 15 credits, as described in Memo 43.

[5]There is currently a moratorium on dual transcripting of multiple credentials under a single degree program for an individual student, beyond those already approved as of Spring Quarter 2016.